Hype over US deploying five aircraft carriers on China's doorstep slammed as unprofessional
Published: Feb 21, 2024 08:08 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Only one US aircraft carrier is currently deployed in the Western Pacific, not five as claimed by several media outlets, according to monitoring by a Beijing-based think tank.

Over the past week, US news magazines the Newsweek, the National Interest and several other overseas media outlets reported that five US aircraft carriers are set to be deployed in the Western Pacific "in China's backyard" or "on China's doorstep."

Saying the deployment involves almost half of the US' aircraft carrier fleet amid tensions with China, the reports counted the five US carriers as the USS Abraham Lincoln setting out from homeport of San Diego on February 5, the USS Carl Vinson in the vicinity of Hawaii, the USS Theodore Roosevelt making a port call in Guam on February 6, the USS Ronald Reagan docked in Yokosuka, Japan, and the USS George Washington scheduled to replace the USS Ronald Reagan in coming months.

But the truth is, now and for a while to come, the only US aircraft carrier that is actively deployed is the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative (SCSPI), a Beijing-based think tank, said in a Sina Weibo post on Tuesday.

Showing a map on locations of US aircraft carriers currently in the Pacific Ocean, the SCSPI said that the USS Carl Vinson left the Pearl Harbor on Monday and is likely wrapping up its deployment in the Western Pacific on its way back to the US mainland, the USS Ronald Reagan is undergoing maintenance in Yokosuka, and the USS Abraham Lincoln returned to San Diego on Friday.

The fleet tracker published by USNI News, the website of the US Naval Institute, showed on Tuesday that the USS George Washington is underway off the east coast of the US mainland, in the Atlantic Ocean.

Only the USS Theodore Roosevelt is in active deployment, as it is currently operating in the Philippine Sea after its departure of Guam on February 14, the SCSPI said.

Meaning the claims of the US deploying five aircraft carriers to the Western Pacific are nothing but unprofessional hype, the SCSPI said.

Based on the general pattern of aircraft carrier deployment, a carrier spends about one third of its time in training, one third in maintenance, and one third in deployment, a Beijing-based military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Wednesday.

With conflicts taking place in other locations around the world, the US will also deploy aircraft carriers elsewhere, so it is very unlikely that the US can deploy as many as five carriers to the Western Pacific without consequences, the expert said, noting that the US' shipbuilding industry is also on a decline, which also caused prolonged maintenance time of US carriers.

Zhang Junshe, a Chinese military expert, told the Global Times that it is very rare that the US simultaneously deploys five aircraft carriers in a same region, and in this case, the US is not really deploying five of them across the Western Pacific.

The US is planning to regularly have three carriers in the Western Pacific, which reflects its strategic focus in the region, Zhang said.

It cannot be ruled out that a relatively large number of US carriers gather in the Western Pacific in a short period of time in the future, including those on rotations or in transits to other regions, and flex muscles using it as an opportunity, but such attempt to deter its potential competitors through a show of force cannot reach its goal, but can only stir up tensions in the region, experts said.